SIFF ’19: Deadpan ‘THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE’ Brilliantly Sharpens Riley Stearn’s Dark Wit

Fight Club by way of Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster), Riley Stearns’ screed on “might is right” toxic masculinity is a giggly black comedy that cowers down a twisty-turny rabbit hole. Jesse Eisenberg plays a neurotic weakling (shocker) who gets mugged and turns to karate to boast his manliness and self-confidence via the transformative power of foot punches and heavy metal. Importing the welcome strangeness of producers David and Nathan Zellner (Kumiko the Treasure Hunter), The Art of Self-Defense is hysterically dark, niche cinema, a deadpan mockery of the sanctity of life and the sacredness of death. It kicks ass. (A-) Read More


Out in Theaters: ‘DAMSEL’

Absurdist indie western Damsel puts a feminist spin on the genre, smuggling jet black gallow’s humor into this romance-tinged quest for love lost. The Zellner have long cherished strangeness and it comes in no shortage here. Quirky and well-acted, Damsel is a call and response to the Westerns of yesteryear, a full-brunted hard-left on familiar genre tropes that is quite often darkly funny and dramatically tragic.  Read More



“Kumiko the Treasure Hunter”
Directed by David Zellner
Starring Rinko Kikuchi, Nobuyuki Katsube, David Zellner, Nathan Zellner, Shirley Venard


“Based on a true story” the title card blares, half-legible in crusty, bite-sized pixelations of a magnified television screen. One chunky word at a time, each letter pronounced, amplified, stuffed in our faces. Pulled straight from Fargo‘s opening sequence (the lauded Coen Bros film goes on to become a key character in the film) and scattered by tightrope zooms, this intriguing unveiling of Kumiko the Treasure Hunter immediately begs question about the veracity of what we’re going to witness. Read More


Talking With the Zellner Bros of KUMIKO THE TREASURE HUNTER

This may not be the Zellner Brother‘s first rodeo but it’s likely to be the one to put them on the map. In addition to acting in small supporting roles across a sprawl of independent features, David and Nathan Zellner have stirred up a tight knit circle of fandom with their earlier works Goliath and Kid Thing that have gone on to tilt their filmography in new and interesting circles. But neither of those features quite inspired the near unanimous support that Kumiko the Treasure Hunter has and here to tell us about the process of turning an urban legend into a stunning feature film are the sibling twosome themselves. Read More